WPP reports very strong Q3 performance with revenues up 9.1%


WPP PLC (LON:WPP) has announced its third quarter trading update.

  £ million+/(-)% reported[1]+/(-)% LFL[2]
Third Quarter   
Revenue less pass-through costs2,6409.915.7
Year to date   
Revenue less pass-through costs7,5396.712.6
  • Q3 revenue +9.1%; LFL revenue +14.7%
  • Q3 LFL revenue less pass-through costs +15.7%; +6.9% LFL on Q3 2019
  • Top five markets Q3 LFL revenue less pass-through costs: US +12.4%; UK +16.9%; Germany +34.5%; Greater China +18.0%; Australia +2.4%
  • Top five markets Q3 LFL revenue less pass-through costs on 2019: US +6.2%; UK +9.3%; Germany +32.1%; Greater China -1.7%; Australia -11.2%
  • Continued new business momentum: $1.7 billion won in Q3, $4.6 billion net year-to-date
  • Ongoing strategic progress: merger of Finsbury Glover Hering and SVC, acquisition of Satalia in AI
  • Net debt £1.6 billion, down £1.0 billion year-on-year at 2021 exchange rates: continued good working capital management
  • £448 million share buyback year-to-date: £600 million completed by year end; continuation of buyback up to 2021 preliminary results
  • Full year 2021 guidance raised again: LFL revenue less pass-through costs 11.5-12.0%, headline operating margin slightly above 14%

Mark Read, Chief Executive Officer of WPP, said:

“Our very strong performance goes well beyond a cyclical recovery, with like-for-like growth over 2019 at 6.9% in the quarter. Clients across all sectors and geographies are making significant investments in marketing, particularly in digital media and ecommerce services. We are now above 2019 levels in all of our business lines, and with the actions we have taken over the last three years, we are even better positioned for growth.

“Our reshaped offer – which combines creativity with technology and data, through Choreograph, with the largest global media platform in GroupM – is proving its value for existing and new clients. This is reflected in the continuation of our longstanding and successful partnership with Unilever, and the growth of our relationship with Bayer. In addition, we are delighted to have won new assignments with Beiersdorf, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s and TD Bank.

“We have also made strategic progress, creating the world’s leading board-level communications firm through the merger of Finsbury Glover Hering and SVC, and acquiring Satalia, a specialist in artificial intelligence. We continue to return excess capital to shareholders, buying back 4% of our shares so far this year. With strong client demand, a clear strategic direction and a strong balance sheet, we are well positioned to continue our momentum into 2022 and beyond.”


During the third quarter, the global communications market continued to grow strongly, and this trend was widely reflected across WPP. Our strength in media combined with our focus on digital, commerce and data is delivering very positive momentum in the business. We achieved double-digit growth in like-for-like revenue less pass-through costs in 15 of our top 20 markets and most of our agency networks. On a two-year basis, performance was led by GroupM (37% of WPP in Q3) which was up 14.6% like-for-like, and VMLY&R, which also grew double-digits. Our key agency networks, and most of our markets, delivered an improving two-year trend in Q3 compared to Q2.

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In new business, we continued to perform well. Most importantly, we retained our long-term partnership with Unilever in media after a thorough review. Including the business won in China last year, we have expanded our remit with Unilever. We also grew our relationship with Bayer, adding the key markets of Germany, Russia and China to our existing media responsibilities. During the period, we won new assignments from Beiersdorf, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s, TD Bank and Under Armour among others.

At the same time, we made strong strategic progress through mergers and acquisitions, transforming existing businesses within WPP and bringing in new capabilities to scale across the company.

·    In July, Kantar completed the acquisition of Numerator, which blends proprietary data, including a digital panel of over one million US consumers, with advanced technology to create unique insights that help companies understand their customers in real time and identify growth opportunities. The transaction makes Kantar a leader in shopper insights in the US and Canada, consistent with its market position in 45 other markets.

·    In August, we acquired Satalia, a global leader in enterprise AI and one of the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies, with clients including BT, DFS, DS Smith, PwC, Gigaclear, Tesco and Unilever. Combining machine learning and optimisation, it builds technologies that help clients apply AI to their business. Satalia will join Wunderman Thompson Commerce and strengthen the global ecommerce consultancy’s technology proposition. It will also act as a hub of AI expertise across WPP.

·    In October, we announced the merger of Finsbury Glover Hering with SVC to create the world’s leading strategic communications firm, with deep expertise in government affairs, corporate reputation, crisis management and financial communications. The new combined group will comprise approximately 1,000 professionals operating from 25 offices in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States, including its global headquarters in New York. Pro forma combined 2020 revenue was more than $330 million.

WPP revenue in the third quarter was up 9.1% at £3.2 billion, and up 14.3% on a constant currency basis. Net changes from acquisitions and disposals had a negative impact of 0.4% on growth, leading to a like-for-like performance, excluding the impact of currency and acquisitions, of 14.7%.

Revenue less pass-through costs in the third quarter was up 9.9% year-on-year to £2.6 billion, and up 15.3% on a constant currency basis. Net changes from acquisitions and disposals had a negative impact of 0.4% on growth, leading to a like-for-like performance, excluding the impact of currency and acquisitions, of 15.7%.

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